Studio: Paramount Pictures
US Rating: Unrated
Film Length: 127 Mins
Video: 1080P High Definition 16X9 - 2.35:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio, French, German and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Release Date: September 7, 2010
Review Date: September 8, 2010
“Would I be correct in thinking that you can neither see nor hear me? Then I'd like to tell you that you smell of pee. You look like the wrong end of a dog. And I swear, if I don't get my Tristan back as he was, I'll be your personal poltergeist!”
IntroductionAlthough I have little evidence at the moment, Stardust surely must be destined to become a cult favorite. The first qualification was achieved from its domestic box office run, garnering precious little attention and certainly disappointing Paramount Pictures by grossing just $38MM. The second qualification comes from its reception overseas. Though this may sound smug coming from an Englishman, but European audiences seem more able to open their arms to quirky, quaint fare like Stardust, helping the film gross just under $100MM in European territories, while American audiences tend to open their arms more upon a film’s rediscovery. The third qualification that Stardust has on its resume for a film destined to become a cult favorite is in just how wonderful, funny, and unexpected it is; a magical mix of off-beat humor, genuine majestic whimsy, earnestness, and terrific characters brought to life by a clearly inspired cast.
The Film: 4.5 out of 5Stardust is slightly twisted fairytale, following a somewhat pathetic store boy, Tristan, in a rural English town as he attempts to prove that he is marrying material to the town beauty – who has little interest his nervous disposition and lack of potential – by travelling through the forbidden land next to his village (Wall) to retrieve a fallen star. Little does he realize that the forbidden land, which is sealed by a stone wall and guarded by a sprightly old curmudgeon, is quite magical, and the fallen star is actually a beautiful lady (Clare Danes ), who is more than a little perturbed at being knocked out of the night sky by a royal necklace.
The necklace was flung into the sky as a test by a dying king with instructions that whichever of his power-hungry off-spring retrieve it will sit at the throne and rule the land. Oh, and is of course a wicked witch who seeks to collect the fallen star for herself as sustenance for her, and her wicked sisters, to restore their youth (for a time). Witches, magic, lightning pirates, gallantry and romance abound throughout two hours for surprising, entertaining, and absolutely fantastic storytelling and humor – the plot of which I haven’t even begun to properly explain (on purpose). Matthew Vaughan, director of the intense British gangster picture Layer Cake, and this year’s criminally underrated Kick-Ass, demonstrated a flair and fortitude handling screenwriter duties as well, with Jane Goldman, working from Neil Gaiman’s Novel. The script is brisk, playful, imaginative, and written to the strengths of a considerably impressive cast. The source material, with its twists on some fairytale conventions and reverent adherence to others, is delightfully irreverent at times, but never to the point of blurring away from the sweetness of the story or the earnestness of its heart. Tristan Thorn is played by Charlie Cox, an affable young actor who successfully moves the likeable boy to a heroic man. Claire Danes is perhaps the greatest gem of the entire film, pulling off the English accent comfortably but more importantly delivers spot-on comedic timing and at times cutting sarcasm. The supporting cast which includes Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia, the ruthless witch in search of youth at the expense of the fallen star, Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare, a ruthless (ahem) captain of a airship searching for lighting to bottle and sell, and Ricky Gervais as a portly trading merchant. It also stars Peter O’Toole as the dying king, and as his sons vying for the seat, Mark Strong as Septimus, Jason Flemyng as Primus, and Mark Heap as Tetrius. Ian McKellen provides narration, and the remaining cast, in roles moderate and small, solidly deliver. Stardustwas more than a surprise to me. The film’s marketing undersold the film’s genuine originality and wicked sense of humor, portraying the film as something entirely more generic and rote.
The Video: 4 out of 5
Paramount Pictures presents Strardust in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 in 1080p High Definition (MPEG-4 AVC codec). This film looks terrific. The blacks are clean and sharp, the colors – which are bright and playful at many junctures – are shown off nicely throughout, and the detail is the stuff of solid high definition releases. Fortunately, the grain structure is not sacrificed for the images clarity. Stardust looks terrific in this high definition blu-ray release. Having not seen the HD-DVD release, I cannot compare the two, but suffice to say this release serves the material extremely well.
The Sound: 4.5 out of 5
With a rousing DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (and French, German and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks), Stardust sounds as great as it looks. The audio is dynamic and thrives in the surrounds and in the bash and boom of the bass and LFE which accompanies the explosive action, fun visual effects sequences, really brings home the aural experience. The engaging, energetic, and warm score from composer ILan Eshkeri is given full ability to sweep and swing through the channels, and the center channel ably delivers the dialogue.
The Extras: 3 out of 5
Commentary by Writer and Director Matthew Vaughn and Writer Jane Goldman: Reasonably entertaining commentary track which allows another dimension of appreciation of Stardust and its trek toward being made despite some challenges.
Crossing the Wall: The Making of Stardust: Broken into five chapters (The Quest for the Stone, A Portal to Another World, What Do Stars Do?, A Quest of Enormous Importance, and Have You Seen a Fallen Star?) this is quite a comprehensive documentary covering a number of the film’s aspects.
Nothing is True...: A somewhat brief behind-the-scenes with author Neil Gaiman and the illustrator Charles Vess.
Deleted Scenes: Five deleted scenes.
Bloopers: Entertaining on-set gaff reel, with the hilarious Ricky Gervais now legendary inability to make it through a scene without cracking up comprising a fair share.
Final ThoughtsStardust was not the film I was expecting to see when I sat down to watch and review it, but I am glad for it – not only was the film more entertaining than I was expecting, it was entirely more accomplished, funny, rich, imaginative and delightful. With excellent performances and technical skills on display, I was taken aback by the joy the film produces.
If I had even the slightest inclination that Stardust was as witty, fun, and deliberately enraptured by the simplicity and absurdity of fairytales – if the trailers had succeeded even by half of conveying what the movie actually was, I would have stood in line opening weekend. If this film seems like your cup of tea, then it comes highly recommended!
Overall 4 out of 5Neil Middlemiss